Is a sub 4 hour marathon possible for me?


I've got a place in the Brighton marathon and it will be my first marathon, but I'm wondering if sub 4 hours is possible based on my times so far.

All but two of my runs have been for fun/training until the last couple of weeks, where I have done one Park Run and a 10k Corporate fund raiser. So although some will be training, the following list is my fastest times to date (with McMillan Running calculator times in brackets for a marathon:

5k - 22:16 (3.37)

10k - 46:28 (3:38)

15k - 1:14:33 (3:46)

10 miles - 1:19:50 (3:44)

HM - 1:49:43 (3:50)

I'm running the Royal Parks Half Marathon this Sunday, so hopefully that time will come down.

I know that the calculator won't be bang on accurate and it's just a guide, but if I put the training in, do people think a sub 4 hour marathon, even if it's my first, could be possible?

The reason for asking is because I only started running just over a year ago, and this time last year, I was probably only just about running 5k (slowley). I have always wanted to try and run a marathon, and hopefully I will in Brighton next year, but I never thought I would do it quickly as I was always thinking about 5 hours!



  • Looks very possible on that half marathon time.

    But if you make a step change in your training then you will smash the 4 hour goal.
  • Eggyh73Eggyh73 ✭✭✭

    If your stamina is good then a sub 4 marathon looks possible to me.

    Your 10km PB is better than mine, but your half time is slighty worse than mine was before I broke the 4 hour mark. I ran 3:49 in Paris this year, but it was my 8th marathon. Your times make it look like sub 4 is certainly possible. If you are willing to commit the time and effort to your training then you should have a good shot at a sub 4 marathon.

    Given that you only started running a year ago to set those times I'd certainly rate your chances of going sub 4 if you train for it as being high.

  • If you put the training in then yes, a sub 4 hr marathon is an achievable aim.

    You need to work on endurance. 26.2 miles will feel like a long way. Start now to build a good base mileage before you start your training programme. Well, run the Royal Parks then have 2 weeks rest just doing some easy running or xtraining then start building up a good base mileage. What the is will depend on you and how much time you have but running at least 35 miles a week should be your aim. Have an easy week to coinside with Christmas / New Year, then start your marathon training programme.

    You will receive a whole tonne of advice, much of it conflicting. Read around a bit, think on what you want to do / have the time to do then decide. Stick with your training plan it will be what will help you through.


  • sleaversleaver ✭✭✭

    Thanks for all the replies. I forgot to metion that I have also done a run that was almost 29.3Km (18 miles) and according to my Garmin, that took basically 2h44. However, I didn't build up to that, I just did it (probably shouldn't of), then when I got home I spent about an hour on the sofa (after getting washed) in the recover position thinking that it would still be another 8 miles.

    I've done quite a bit of running this year, so after next Sunday I was going to cut down a bit and then start training just after Christmas. However, should I start earlier?

    I was watching Berlin yesterday and thinking that I have always wanted to visit there. Then I started thinking about timing a trip with the marathon image

  • You really need to build a decent base mileage before you embark on any marathon training programme. If you rest between now and Christmas you stand the risk of loosing your base level fitness, making it that much harder to go under 4hrs.

    Sorry, now is not the time to take time out. (after 2 weeks off after your next hm)

    You should not start training for the marathon just yet as you will be totally fed up by the time it comes around and probably just a little burnt out. There are plenty of off road races in the run up to Christmas, why not run a few of those just to have a little fun - no time set, just to enjoy the running.


  • Eggyh73Eggyh73 ✭✭✭

    What you need to do depends on what marathon you aim for. If it's a spring marathon then getting a good base fitness over the next couple of months would be good. If your aim is Berlin next year, then a couple of months of easy training just now isn't going to be an issue as you have a long time to build.

    I tend to do an 18 week marathon training schedule. If you want to have less issues with the training then starting with a good base is ideal. If you can go out and regularly run 10/12/13 miles at an easy pace, then the ramp up is going to hurt far less. Even when not marathon or half marathon training I tend to do a "long" weekend run most weeks. When not marathon training to me that is anything between 10-14 miles. I enjoy that sort of running and that type of distance though. It also tends to mean the first few weeks of any marathon training plan are what I would normally run anyway.

    My one tip would be make sure you get the long runs in during training. Everyone is different and will provide different advise, but I find I've always ran better in the later stages of marathons after getting 4 or 5 runs of 20 miles or more in.

    Oh, and I ran Berlin in 2011. It's a great race. I'd certainly recommend it.

  • sleaversleaver ✭✭✭

    T.mouse - So should I be aiming for 35 miles per week between the middle of this month and the start of the marathon training which I was thinking would be the end of December, start of January?

  • I'm also looking to make a step change in my training, and vastly improve on my marathon PB. I've so far run only 1 (Brighton in 2010) in 5:08. I was happy to get round given the lack of training for it (avg weekly mileage before race was

  • not sure what happened then...

    anyway, avg mileage was about 15 per week, so i just didn't have the endurance to complete in a decent time.

    I've recently returned to running after only running sporadically since 2010, and am up to 20 miles per week now. Intending to increase to about 30 per week by xmas, then start a 16 week training plan straight after new year, with the hope to get as close to 4 hours as possbile.

    i think given your current training volume and your PBs, a 4hour target is realistic and achieveable if you focus on increasing your volume and doing regular long runs to improve your endurance over those longer distances. best of luck

  • AgentGinger wrote (see)

    I'm also looking to make a step change in my training, and vastly improve on my marathon PB. I've so far run only 1 (Brighton in 2010) in 5:08. I was happy to get round given the lack of training for it (avg weekly mileage before race was

    ... a secret?

  • sleaver, what is your current mileage?

    35 is a good ball park figure for pre marathon, however if you are happy to run more then that is better. If 35 seems like a hard challenge then don't do it. You still need to live. Remember to have easy weeks as well. they will help you more than you realise.

    This period shouldn't be arduous.

  • On the subject of base training and aerobic endurance, will 2-3 months of steadily higher mileage (say 30 miles per week) cause a notable, significant or even large improvement in pace, if the most i've ever done previously was around 10-15 miles per week? And how long until I start to see the gain?

    As I mentioned above, my marathon time in 2010 was just over 5 hours, with one 18 mile long run, one 16 mile, a couple of 14 mile runs, and an average of about 15 miles a week in the 6 months leading to the race. My hope is that simply adding lots of slow miles between now and xmas will mean I'm recognisably fitter when I start the training in January. Is that reasonable?

  • Very reasonable. The more miles that you can run at a comfortable pace the better.

    The theory is that it takes 3 weeks for increased mileage to take effect. The effects will be quite noticeable at the outset. Certainly you will feel the effect for the duration of your training. You'll be able to run further feeling more comfortable and your recovery will be quicker. You'll just be a stronger runner all round.

    The effects of greater weekly mileage will be very positive.

  • IF you can run 5 or 6 times a week.   It is beneficial to up the miles to about 50 running at 10 min miles..   I did this for my PB of 3:50 and could of gone quicker.  So if y ou were to spend 3 months doing this and getting the  miles in and thendoing a marathon plan 4 hours is more than possible

  • sleaversleaver ✭✭✭
    T.mouse wrote (see)

    Very reasonable. The more miles that you can run at a comfortable pace the better.

    The theory is that it takes 3 weeks for increased mileage to take effect. The effects will be quite noticeable at the outset. Certainly you will feel the effect for the duration of your training. You'll be able to run further feeling more comfortable and your recovery will be quicker. You'll just be a stronger runner all round.

    The effects of greater weekly mileage will be very positive.

    At the moment, it's about 25. However, time is limited coming up as I'll soon be leaving for work in the dark and getting home in the dark, but I'm probably going to be joining a gym.

    If I can't up that due to time and it means sub 4 would be hard, then it's not the end of the world. If I'm honest, my main goal is to finish and then I would be happy with something between 4 and 4:30 with sub 4 being great if it's possible for me.

  • Ive just done my first marathon at Loch Ness was aiming for 4.15,ended up finishing in 4.36 whach im a bit dissapointed with.

    On reflection i now realise there wasnt enough base mileage before i started my 16 week marathon programme.Total rest this week for me then a few easy ones next week then i will be building my base mileage back up.Ive got unfinished busines with both half marathon and marathon distance and next year my main goals are to improve my time at Alloa half in March(this year 1.49.03),and do a an autumn marathon and try and get a sub 4 as well.

    im planning on getting a decent base in over 2 months of 40mpw then start more specific half mara training.Then build the base again in prep for an autum marathon campaign.

    Does this sound ok ,as these are the 2 main target races for next year with maybe the odd parkrun and 10k race thrown in for good measure along the way?

  • mowzermowzer ✭✭✭

    Running 26.2 miles often comes as a shock to the system image.

    I sometimes advise first-time marathoners, unless experienced youngish club runners, to double their half time and then add an hour (yes, that's right, an HOUR). Then when they finish (invariably around that time) they are well pleased image. The aim of a first marathon should be to get round, to feel good and to be looking forward to another marathon because it was enjoyable, not because you are disappointed in 'failing to meet a target'. Then by building up a strong base of long, SLOW miles, before specific marathon training, most runners (but not all) can take a fair bit of time off and start setting pbs.

    Running marathons should be all about achievement and enjoyment, fast times are an added bonus.

  • i'm reading a lot of the threads on here about base building, and increasing mileage outside of a specific marathon program. Caveats about adding mileage sensibly and avoiding injury by running too many miles too quickly, it seems you really can't run TOO much, i.e. your lifestyle and commitments will be the limiting factor, if you want to improve your marathon times.

  • Eggyh73Eggyh73 ✭✭✭

    Young Cowboy - I don't know what you currently run per week, but I personally don't feel you need an average base of 40mpw before entering marathon training. That all depends on what you currently run each week though. I know I broke the sub 4 barrier this year at Paris running a 3:49 while doing an average of 40-50mpw during marathon training. In my base periods of running with no events to train for I average closer to 25-30mpw, but one of those weekly runs will be at least 10-13 miles.

    I also think it's good advice that has been given that your first marathon should be for the joy of completion rather than for a specific time. Not only do you learn a lot about yourself and how you deal with things in those final few miles of the marathon, you learn a lot about how you train and what works for you and what doesn't during training for it.

  • When not training for an event i was running an average of 25 mpw,was usually 3 runs of 5 miles and a 10 on a saturday,all easyish pace with the wednesday 5 at a tempo effort just to keep basic(for me) speed in my legs

    For my marathon training my midweek longer run i didnt go above 10 so i think it would be worthwhile increasing this during training for my next mara in 2013.

    As a marathon newbie im open and willing to take on advice from more experienced people,but then again i suppose its not a one size fits all sorta thing

  • I'm doing my first half marathon in November. Recently, I switched from just going out running as far and as fast as I could to follow a more structured plan. Training is going well and at the moment I am doing about 35 miles per week over 4 days and am feeling really good. Even though I havent even run my first half yet I am thinking about running the Manchester full marathon in April 2013. As I am feeling very comfortbale with my current training I was wondering if it would benefit me if I started increasing my weekly mileage (on my LSR only I was thinking). Is this a good idea and would it help or harm my half marathon training ?


  • Finding a mileage base that suits you is the knack of training. So many factors like age, weight ,experience, lifestyle, health, experience, years of running all come into play. Most folk if they start running try and up the mileage too quick and get injured so work up gradually. Depending on your physique, build and genetics you may be able to run 50 miles a week no problem but for others 20 will cause them to suffer repetitive strains and injuries.  Certainly the higher mileage you do per week will enable you to have stamina for the last few miles in a marathon. ENJOY the first one and learn from it would be my advice for whats that worth............

  • My times are not far off yours.

    22.31 5k

    48 10k

    1.45 Half marathon (I've done 8 in a year and that was my fastest as they have ranged from 1.57 which was my first half all the way to 1.45)

    I also did a marathon in 4.18.

    My target was to do Sub 4 like yourself and I was doing really well up to Mile 20 when I crashed and burned. In my experience, doing a marathon is a completely different ball game.

    You really need to build up your endurance for doing the distance and also be super focused.

    I run an average of 35 miles a week now. And my aim is to run the Florence Marathon in Sub 4hrs. I was bitterly disapointed with my last marathon time and thought that based on my other times that Sub 4 was going to be feasible but the odds were stacked against me...

    In all fairness I have now learnt from my mistakes... I don't think its only the training that had an impact on my time... I have to add that I had 4 hours sleep both nights before the race as my brother kept me awake with his snoring, I spent the day before exploring the city as i was abroad, I didn't have a proper breakfast, I had a stomach cramp at Mile 20 as I don't know what possessed me but i was so hungry and ended up eating slices of apple that were given out to the runners that gave me a massive cramp and it was raining the entire time and i was wearing so many layers I felt like i had a weight on top of me! So I guess you can safely say that I didn't stand a chance but this time I am going to try and remedy the situation.

    I got myself a room all to myself the night before, I'm bringing my breakfast and also carrying Clif Bloks with me on the course so I won't eat any random foods laid out on the course. As for the weather I can only HOPE that the weather gods are kind to us!

    A friend of mine who I helped train for a marathon ran the Berlin marathon recently marginally faster than i did. She ran the entire course whereas I ran the first 20 miles and walked/jogged the last 6 miles. She had perfect weather conditions, a good nights sleep etc... She said it couldn't have gone any better and she ran the fastest she has ever ran as when we were training together she is a much slower runner than I am... Her HM PB was just over 2 hours and she managed to do Berlin in 4.16...

    I think that experience does play a big part in it as well... You just never know how the day will go but i think its achievable if you put the training in esp the long runs as it gets you ready for the distance.

  • sometimes it just isn't your day, Melissa. It'll make it all the more sweet when you break 4 hours in Florence though, good luck image

  • sleaversleaver ✭✭✭

    Slight update to this thread as I now have a chip timed half marathon under my belt.

    I was aiming for under 1:45, but crossed the finishing line in 1:43:45. Going by that calculator, both my 10K and HM times put my full marathon pace at 3:38.

    So, while I wouldn't aim for that far under 4 hours, I think I'll do my training, see how it goes and possibly aim for just under 4. However, I'm already getting ideas of entering another marathon next year, so if I do that I may finish the first not worrying about time and then go for sub 4 hours.

  • Hi all....

    I am new to both posting messages & marathon running but have been following this thread with interest. I have always enjoyed running and have been regularly entering local 10K & 1/2 marathon races over the last 3-4 years since hanging up the football boots. I find having a race on the calender makes the evening runs much easier, anyway... I have just got a ballot place in the VLM (4th year trying) and plan to crack into the training to aim at sub 4. I currently run 15-20 miles a week which is a lot less than some of you guys, but I have a good level of all round fitness & endurance. I literally go all out on race days crossing the line with nothing in the tank. For this reason my race strategy needs a rethink for the marathon distance so - any advice would be most appreciated.... I realise I need to up my milage in the coming months and find a more comfortable slower running speed.

    I am a guy of 37 years old & regularly run 10K in 40 to 42 mins and half marathons in 1h 34 to 1h 40.

  • Interesting stuff!

    Many of you are about 2 years behind me in terms of running development, so here is a brief synopsis of how I got myself a Boston qualifying time in my first marathon (VLM 2012) aged 62. If I can do it, I'm sure many of you can do it to.....

    My first race (Sept 2010) was a HM off about 3 months training at around 20-25m/wk - result 1:40:59. Next up a few 5k parkruns - best 21:36 or there abouts and a 10k in December 2010 of 44:xx.

    Spring 2011, I ran Reading HM in 1:39:xx so basically the same result from the same training through the winter. I decided if I was to improve, I had to do something different and joined a club. After a few weeks of track sessions and fast intervals, I had my 5k time down by 30 secs and 10k time down to 43:01 - you get the pattern. In a club (track race) my 5k time fell again to 20:14 which is still my PB.

    Autumn 2011, I decided to target VLM 2012 and got a place on the club ballot (they had 3 places from Sport England, another reason to join a Club)!

    I decided I had to build my base from October and carry it into the mara training which incidentally kicked off 26 Dec 2011. To build my base I ran in all of the club cross country races (8) and this proved to be a masterstroke as my strength, endurance and fitness soared.

    Feb 2012 - HM PB 1:34:xx

    Mar 2012 - 10k PB 41:38:xx

    Apr 2012 - 10m PB 1:11:xx and into the marathon off 140 - 150 miles/month from Jan - April.

    VLM - 3:32:13 debut marathon.

    Bottom line: do the base now Oct - Jan (XC racing); do the miles; do plenty of build up races and yes, you can easily beat 4:00:00



  • Mike - your times when you started out blow my times after 6 months of running out of the water. I have no chance! image

  • Interesting reading. I've done 9 marathons now in 7 years starting with 4.45 down to 4.10 at London this year. I've also got a place in London next year and would love to achieve the sub 4. I've also ran 4 Ultras - one 70 miler last year and 3 this year, a 40 in May, 70 in July, and a 51 4 weeks ago. I've got a 50 miler in Feb booked in too. I've got endurance for sure (46 year old with 5 kids). Does anybody know which training plans are best to use please? I've tried a few, including runnersworld sub 4 last year which did get me a better time. So many out there, thanks

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